Freshman Natalia Otkhmezuri made two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining to give the Casper College women’s basketball team a 66-64 victory over Western Nebraska Community College in the Region IX championship game on Saturday at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.
With the score tied at 64-all following a three-point play by the No. 2 Cougars with 32.6 seconds remaining, the T-Birds inbounded the ball to Otkhmezuri. She dribbled around the perimeter before finally attacking the basket as the shot clock wound down. Otkhmezuri calmly stepped to the line and made both free throws.
Western Nebraska (29-2) got the ball in near midcourt and got one final look at the basket but the shot was off and the T-Birds began to celebrate their second Region IX championship in three years. It was the third consecutive year that Casper and Western Nebraska had met in the championship game.
The 15th-ranked T-Birds (29-3) trailed 54-48 with less than 8 minutes to play, but went on 9-0 run to take a 58-54 lead with 4 minutes, 4 seconds remaining after going 1 of 2 at the free throw line. Otkhmezuri gave the T-Birds a 62-56 lead with a 3-pointer before the Cougars rallied to tie the game.
Casper will find out Monday when and who it will play in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Championships on March 16-21 in Lubbock, Texas.
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